What is The Intersection of Purpose & Now? What happens there?
The starfish thrower
I awoke early, as I often did, just before sunrise to walk by the ocean’s edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint, faraway movement. I saw a boy, bending and reaching and waving his arms – dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day soon to begin.
As I approached, I sadly realized that he was not dancing, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night’s tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea. I asked the boy the purpose of the effort. “The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves,” he replied. “When the sun rises, they will die, unless I throw them back to the sea.”
I looked at the vast expanse of beach, stretching in both directions. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. the hopelessness of the boys’s plan became clear to me and I pointed out, “But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference.”
He paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me he simply said, “I made a difference to that one.”
This short story, first published by Readers Digest in 1991, now exists in hundreds of variations such as that above, based on one originally written by Loren Eisely in his classic book The Unexpected Universe. I love the lesson of the popular tale above, but equally I love Eisely’s telling of his original lived event.
Eisely was indeed on pre-dawn walk along the ocean’s edge at Costabel. He was noticing the unusual number of starfish stranded along the beach, doomed to die and end up in some sheller’s collection. That is when he came upon a boy, at the base of a “gigantic rainbow of incredible perfection”, picking up a single starfish and casting it into the ocean.
“It’s still alive,” Eisely commented to the boy.
“It may live,” said the boy, “if the offshore pull in strong enough.”
“Do you collect?” Eisely asked.
“Only like this,” was the boy’s response, “and only for the living. The stars throw well. One can help them.”
The stars throw well. One can help them.
So many coaches, inspirational speakers and the like seem to be in a spitting match most of the time. They boast of earning great wealth, buying condos near the beach and of great heights to be climbed. These things are great, for some people.
But there are those of us who find our greatest achievements in the way our children approach the day, with great care and curiosity. There are those of us who find more purpose in serving a great meal to a group of good friends than we do in skydiving or building a profitable marketing network. There are those of us who are satisfied by earning, really earning, the big job promotion for which we are striving rather than an annual cost-of-living increase. There are those of us who care more about the neighbor who is crying on our shoulder than the number of followers we can gain on Twitter in the next 30 days.
There are those of us who just want to wake up another day and make a contribution, knowing that we have value to give.
We all find ourselves washed up on the beach at times. I want to help you get back into a strong current.
My clients crave focus on the things that are important to them (not what is most important to society or the big-name speakers and authors). I have written before about my Grand Aim. My purpose, in part, is to develop people with dreams into leaders with vision, who through authentic self-expression will add value to the world around them. I COULD measure my success by the number of leaders with whom I work – who I “collect” – each year, and by the goals they achieve as a result. But that would not be true to The Intersection of Purpose & Now.
At The Intersection of Purpose & Now I measure my value by the person who finds clarity and renewed commitment with my direct assistance or by the words I am writing right now. I can make a difference for this one.
Only like this, and only for the living. The Intersection of Purpose & Now is a moment, not a lifetime. It’s a person, not an audience. It’s only for the living. And what I do right now…determines how someone lives or dies.